Lot n° 10
2500 - 3000
BACHET DE MÉZIRIAC Claude-Gaspard (1581-1638) poète, helléniste, traducteur, philologue et mathématicien ; membre fondateur de l'Académie française [AF 1634, 13e f].
MANUSCRIT largely autograph, [De la Traduction, 1635]; notebook of 21 pages small in-4 (ca. 19.8 x 14.3 cm), of which pages 1 to half of p. 8 and from the beginning of p. 17 to the end entirely autograph, the rest by a secretary with erasures, corrections and numerous autograph marginal annotations.
Extremely rare manuscript of Bachet de Méziriac's entrance speech to the very young Académie française, on translation.
This speech, the 17th delivered at the Academy, was read by VAUGELAS on December 10, 1635 in the absence of its author, living in Bourg-en-Bresse and ill, who had been exempted from the residence, "the only academician who never attended any session of the Academy" (R. Kerviler). After the usual compliments, it is a severe criticism of the famous translation by Jacques AMYOT of the Vies parallèles des hommes illustres by PLUTARQUE, of which Méziriac was preparing a new translation.
The text was published in the new Menagiana in 1715, then at the head of the "new edition" of Méziriac's Commentaires sur les Epistres d'Ovide (La Haye, Henri du Sauzet, 1716, t. I. p. 23-56).
"Gentlemen, I hold so dear the honor you have done me of receiving me into this famous company, where you have admitted no one who does not infinitely surpass me in merit, that I consider myself obliged above all else to obey exactly your commands. It is to fulfill this duty that I am presenting you this rude speech, the harshness of which will make you realize that I was born in a barbaric country, with a mind full of worries, and which could not help but sympathize with a body that is plagued by cruel and continuous pain.  If I have taken some trouble to acquire a mediocre knowledge of foreign languages, it has been with the intention of satisfying my mind rather than of making a show of it, and I have always made more of things than of words, proposing to myself no other aim in my studies than to arrive at an understanding of the ancient authors, in order to draw the sciences from their source, without amusing myself with the arrangement of words, nor with the elegance of style.  That is why, gentlemen, I have great difficulty in persuading myself that I can hold any rank in this illustrious Academy where one makes a profession of eloquence, and one pretends to lead our language to its perfection.
He comes to the bottom of his subject, and among the "learned and laborious translations [which] have transported to France the treasures of Greece", he retains AMYOT who "has so well deserved the general approval, that he is held by all for the best and most judicious translator that we have, both because he has chosen an excellent author, and whose writings are filled with all kinds of erudition ;and because he has translated it in a very beautiful style, and which approaches perfection as much as it was possible in a century where the ideas were not yet perfectly polished.  But the beauty of the language alone is not enough to make one appreciate an excellent translation.  the most essential quality of a good translator is fidelity" Then begins a thorough charge against the unfortunate Amyot, accused of having perverted, in more than a thousand places, the original text of Plutarch, and whose least fault was ignorance. His errors, ignorances, faults or misinterpretations are mercilessly pointed out, pen in hand
The speech ends with an invocation to RICHELIEU: "That if I dare to persuade myself that the Asters who presided over my birth promised me so much happiness, that one day this great and inimitable Cardinal who by his great deeds attracts to himself the eyes of the whole world, will look at my Plutarch with a favorable eye, and that when he has a few moments of leisure, and wants to unburden his mind of so many sorrows with which he is continually occupied, while he works to make all Europe conspire for the good and honor of France, he will give himself a pleasant entertainment by reading this divine author. [...] It should be enough for me to participate in the sweet influences that this beautiful star spreads generally over France, which it makes enjoy a profound peace, while iron and flame ravage all the rest of Europe. Also I profess that I wish no other reward for my labors, than to be able to leave some mark to posterity, to have lived in a century which produced so many marvels and to have put myself in duty to enrich France with the rarest despouilles of Greece, at the same time that our invincible monarch, taking charge of those which he wins every day over his enemies, as much by the faithful advice of this incomparable minister, as by the effort of his victorious weapons, is going to extend his empire to the limits of ancient Gaul. "
Bibliography : René Kerviler, Claude-Gaspard Bachet seigneur de Méziriac, l'un des quarante Fondateurs de l'Académie française. Study on his life & on his writings
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